Quality Assurance: Chocolate Chips and THc
Have you ever bitten into a chocolate chip cookie to discover that the bite contains no chips? Then you look into the bag of cookies to see that some have almost more chips than cookie while others shouldn’t even be called chocolate chip.
It’s disappointing to expect chips and only get cookie; on the other hand, it can be overwhelming to get only a mouthful of chocolate. The best chocolate chip cookies are those which the manufacturer has thoroughly mixed to provide a consistent, homogeneous batch. (Even if you like more or fewer chips in your cookies, it’s still best to get them the way you expect … as the label shows them to be.)
The same concept applies to cannabis-infused edibles – but with potentially graver consequences. Consistency and homogeneity can be critical in food production, but if care is not taken to ensure that the THC is evenly distributed throughout a batch of edibles, the potency per serving could vary significantly and present risks to the consumer. (There also is the issue of consistency in the THC itself, but that is an article for another day!)
While sampling is one way to verify the potency, it is important that an adequate number of samples be taken from various points in the batch, and various batches. A single sample, or a few from the same point in production, may show that the product meets specifications, whereas if more samples were collected throughout your production run, you may have found that the mix was not homogeneous and various edibles did not, in fact, comply with specifications.
This also causes an issue in labeling and regulatory compliance. If your specifications and label state that your product has 10 milligrams of THC per serving, a randomly selected sample taken by an inspector or auditor should demonstrate results at least close to that. If a consumer were to experience adverse effects from your product and it was discovered that it was of significantly higher potency than labeled, you would be liable. Even if (or perhaps especially if) it impacted only some of the items in the batch.
Not only does this happen, but consumers have conducted testing themselves, as shown in a recent article in MEL Magazine for which the author conducted her own experiment: choosing five different edibles labeled at varying potencies and sending them to a lab for potency testing. In this case, four out of five samples contained a lower concentration of THC than the associated label. For recreational edibles, this may not be a significant health issue (though it could be significant to regulatory tolerances), but for those being used for medical purposes, a 60% difference between the THC labeled (200 mg) and tested (123 mg) could mean the difference between a pain-free and a painful day.
And whether for medical or recreational purposes, not only is improper labeling against state laws, it’s likely to lose you customers who get more or (particularly) less effect than they expect.
Led by Dr. David Acheson, HashTAG is part of The Acheson Group (TAG), a food safety consulting group that provides guidance and expertise worldwide for companies throughout the food supply chain. With a focus on the Cannabis Edibles Industry, the HashTAG team brings in-depth industry knowledge combined with real-world experience to help companies more effectively mitigate risk, improve operational efficiencies, and ensure regulatory and standards compliance. To learn more about HashTAG services and expertise, please visit: www.HashTAG.global